By
updated 8/23/2006 6:49:31 PM ET 2006-08-23T22:49:31

People new to cruising often have mistaken ideas about the experience. They have their holiday-at-sea mixed up with “The Love Boat,” or “Titanic” or maybe “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But even experienced cruisers can fall for a cruise myth — sometimes before they have even stepped aboard the ship. In fact, myths about cruise fares and the booking process are among the most common, and falling for them can be an expensive mistake.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

Here are three myths about cruise fares that deserve a second look.

Myth 1: Balcony cabins are too expensive

Many people book inside cabins believing they are the cheapest; they won’t even look at the balcony cabins, thinking the price will be too high. Not true. On a recent Caribbean cruise search, I was surprised to discover that the cheapest cabin on several cruise lines wasn’t an inside or outside cabin but a balcony cabin.

“Sometimes it’s less for a balcony cabin,” confirms luxury cruise specialist Lucy Hirleman, president of Berkshire Travel in Newfoundland, N.J. She notes that if you book far enough in advance, or take advantage of special promotions for past passengers, you will frequently find that a balcony cabin costs less than an ocean-view. You can even score a mini-suite.

What’s going on? Several different things. First, the supply of balcony cabins has increased as newer ships have come online with a higher percentage of balcony cabins. Second, a glut of cruises, particularly in the Caribbean, has opened up some great deals. Third, balcony cabins are often offered as “sweeteners” in promotions aimed at return passengers, whose loyalty to the cruise line will pay off in the long run.

So, always scan the rates for all cabin categories. You may end up with a pleasant surprise.

Myth 2: The Internet has the best fares

“Unfortunately the public has the mistaken opinion that everything bought on the Internet is cheaper,” says Ben Catalina of Cruises Inc. in San Antonio. While the Internet is a good place to go to get a general idea of the cost a cruise, it doesn’t necessarily offer the best deals. Catalina says people will often come to him with an Internet quote on a cruise and be surprised when they compare it with the fare his agency is able to get. “In nearly all cases, our price is equal or better than any Internet or direct cruise-line price,” he says.

The reason the agencies can undercut the Internet sites is that they are so well connected. They have many pricing options available to them through their computer reservations systems and through the cruise lines themselves. Many specialty agents receive daily faxes and e-mails from cruise lines and tour operators touting deals that you cannot find online.

Many agents also belong to travel consortiums like Ensemble or Virtuoso that book blocks of cabins and offer deals that are exclusive to the clients of their member travel agencies. Hirleman, the New Jersey cruise specialist, says she often gets clients who are repeat cruisers with a particular cruise line who can “double dip” through her affiliation with Ensemble to get extra savings and perks. “They get a great past-passenger rate plus onboard credits and amenities through the group booking,” Hirleman explains. “You won’t get that online.”

Myth 3: You’re stuck with your fare

The cruise line will never call you if they have lowered the price of your cruise. Therefore, it can really pay off to keep tabs on the price of your cruise after you book. Just ask Scott Larsen of Fairfax, Va.

Last November, Larsen booked a September 2006 cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas. He went for the least expensive option: an inside cabin. In July, Larsen was thinking about upgrading his cabin, so he checked the Internet for the current cabin rates. He discovered that the prices had dropped quite a bit. In fact, an outside cabin was now going for $1 less than the price he booked for his inside cabin.

Larsen called Royal Caribbean to see if he could upgrade to the outside cabin. The cruise line told him the upgrade was possible, but he would need to make arrangements through the travel agency that handled his booking: Travelocity. Larsen then contacted Travelocity and the changes were made. Larsen notes that had he chosen to keep the inside cabin, Royal Caribbean would have refunded him $200. He says, “I really prefer the upgrade and I am really happy with the outcome.”

It’s time to debunk these three cruise myths. With a little detective work, you could end up with a cabin with a view — and more money in your pocket.

Bon voyage!

Anita Dunham-Potter is a Pittsburgh-based travel journalist specializing in cruise travel. Anita's columns have appeared in major newspapers and many Internet outlets, and she is a contributor to Fodor's "Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises 2006."E-mail Anitaor visit her Web site anitavacation.com.

Cruise for a Cause!

Tripso wants to take you on a cruise for a cause! See how far New Orleans and Cozumel have come since Katrina and Wilma. Join us October 26, 2006, for four nights on Carnival’s Fantasy, one of the vessels that Carnival offered for hurricane relief. Chat with your favorite Tripso columnist and contribute to a worthy Gulf Coast relief organization. Space is very limited. For more information, e-mail us or check out our cruise page.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments